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By | Dan Goodin 8th March 2011 00:17

Feeling heat from Macs, Microsoft sells PCs sans crapware

Putting Signature on speed

With Apple Macs in its sights, Microsoft has been quietly reselling PCs that offer customized, slimmed-down installations of Windows designed to run faster and to be easier to set up and maintain.

The software company has been selling computers preloaded with the custom Windows image since at least October 2009 under the a program called Signature, according to this article from CNET News. But over the past few weeks, Microsoft has reinvigorated its marketing of the program with stats designed to show the benefits of buying PCs that come with a Signature image compared with the default image supplied by the Dell or one of the other PC makers.

To wit: Machines running a Signature version of Windows 7 on average boot 40 percent faster than the same piece of hardware running the manufacturer's version, goes to sleep 23 percent faster and resumes 51 percent faster, Microsoft says here. They also come with “just the software you need,” which is code for saying the machines don't contain crapware such as promotional versions of antivirus software that can drastically hamper performance.

“A PC with Signature has less software running in the background, allowing your PC to focus on running smoothly or creating video files,” Microsoft says. “Also, less trialware and sampleware means more storage space for important things like that two-hour video that your buddies made of you trying to reach the top of the climbing wall.”

Desktops on machines running a Signature image look identical, no matter which PC maker they come from. Each contains a Bing animated wallpaper image and a single icon for the trash bin. Compare that to a desktop from the typical manufacturer, which contains its corporate logo and literally dozens of different icons, most for programs the user will never run.

What's more, each Signature PC ships with “all of the appropriate drivers for the hardware type in question, very real performance tuning, a suite of useful Microsoft applications and services, optimized versions of certain applications and experiences (like Internet Explorer), and more,” according to a review penned by Paul Thurrott that Microsoft conspicuously links to on the promo page.

Signature PCs can be purchased online through the Microsoft Store, or at any one of the eight store locations. “There will be quite a few more in the future,” Thurrott quotes Microsoft's Kevin Eagan as saying.

Signature PCs, which are available only to people in the US, also come with 90 days of technical support from Microsoft. They also come preloaded with a version of Microsoft Security Essentials, which the company promotes as security software that will never expire. ®

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